|Posted: 22 December 2005 at 12:44pm | IP Logged
If you are ever in Islamorada, Fla., Stop in at the World Wide Sportsman to see the Pilar replica. Go here and scroll down to the bottom-most, left-hand photo.
The boat is still there and you can visit it and see the Hemingway memorabilia on it. This is the blurb about the boat and it verifies something I always thought when I watched the film Key Largo.
‘PILAR’ - THE HALF-SISTER SHIP
TO HEMINGWAY’S FAMED ‘PILAR’
Dry-berthed at WorldWide Sportsman is the vessel which has been called the sister ship to Ernest Hemingway’s ‘Pilar’.
Our ‘Pilar’ was built at Weeks Shipyard in Brooklyn in 1933, a year before Hemingway’s boat was built by the Wheeler Boat Yard around the corner. Legend has it that Hemingway fished from this boat in 1933 and decided he must own one just like it if he were to satisfy his yearning to hunt the big game fish of the Gulf Stream waters, all the way to Bimini. He took a Wheeler brochure with him on his African safari in the fall of 1933 and, when he returned through New York in April of 1934, he placed his order for the Wheeler Playmate Cabin Cruiser for a price of $7500, monies raised from advances against future articles and royalties for Esquire magazine and Scribners, his publisher. He christened her ‘Pilar’ in honor of the shrine of Zaragoza and also of his wife, Pauline, who had used it as her secret nickname during their courtship.
The two ships are very much alike, except that Hemingway customized his ‘Pilar’. It was four feet shorter at 38-feet and the transom was lowered by one foot. Otherwise, they shared the same home at the Port of Key West and fished the same waters throughout the 30’s. Both boats also took part in World War II, WorldWide’s ‘Pilar’ being called to duty with the Navy in Key West, while Hemingway armed his ‘Pilar’ to the hilt and chased German submarines in the waters off Cuba, having changed his home port to Havana.
When Hemingway left Cuba in 1959, he entrusted his ‘Pilar’ to long-time captain and friend, Gregorio Fuentes. Two years later Fuentes received a letter giving him ownership of the ‘Pilar’, about one month after Hemingway shot himself, but he never went out on her again. Thus the boat sat idle throughout the 60’s, until the Cuban government moved her to the present location at Finca Viga where she is on display at Hemingway’s old homestead on the island.
Our ‘Pilar’ has less documented but nevertheless colorful tales to tell. In 1948 she co-starred with Bogart and Bacall in the movie “Key Largo”, bearing the name ‘Santana’ on her stern. And in the 50’s she showed up in the Bahamas as ‘The Blue Heron’ in the movie of the same name. Years thereafter she was left to deteriorate on shore at Stock Island until someone calling himself Blue Heron Don moved aboard and commenced restoration. Her new fiberglass bottom allowed the old vessel to float once again, but, after nine years, Blue Heron Don died, his job unfinished.
In 1978 Tex Perkins moved to Key West from Fort Worth and went into the charter boat business. As a Hemingway aficionado, he’d had his eye on the boat for some ten years, with ideas of restoring her as a ‘Pilar’ replica. He bought her from attorney, Mark Quinn, who had had her moored in the mangroves on the other side of Stock Island, and towed her over to Steadman’s Boat Yard where, with the help of Cheryl Clark and Kurt Blum, he set about rebuilding her from the waterline up. Within a year she had newly rebuilt twin diesel engines, new electronics, a modern steering system, and gleaming mahogany and accessories. With satisfaction, they proclaimed her to be the sister ship, ‘Pilar’. Tex put her to work in his charter business as a veritable floating museum of Hemingway memorabilia, catching the attention of Johnny Morris of Bass Pro Shops, who in 1993 expressed an interest in acquiring her as a centerpiece for his saltwater emporium. Tex agreed and on January 15, 1994, Captain Don Van Esselstine sailed her up to Islamorada. Johnny Morris had the boat transported to his home town in Springfield, MO, where she was totally refurbished before her return to Islamorada.
In October 1997 she was rechristened by Mina Hemingway, Ernest’s granddaughter. At last the ‘Pilar’ has a comfortable anchorage, just as does her sister ship in Cuba.
Edited by Peter Krynicki on 22 December 2005 at 12:46pm